Standing in the midst of 800,000 protesters with a singular quest to change the way this country views guns will do something to you. It will make you a believer—that good people do exist, that there is an overwhelming sense of community out there if you look for it, that the teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida will change the world. That all is not lost.
As the debate on gun control rages on, there is one thing I know for sure: the teens who have lived through this gun violence—the type of trauma that nobody, let alone children should have to endure—are more organized, more intelligent, and more well-spoken than the politicians making decisions about whether these kids deserve to live or die in their classrooms. Listening to these impassioned speeches gave me hope. It made me think just maybe we can move the needle, shift the policies that stand idle as lives are lost.
Effort Score: Needs Improvement
Protesting is not for the faint of heart, and getting to this protest was work. The Metro was stuffed to the gills, which always makes me a little nervous in this post-911 era. You have to really commit to stand on your feet all day. Not to mention the brainpower that goes into coming up with the perfect sign. I happened to have my parents in tow, who aren’t accustomed to standing upright for 6 hours at a time. It was a bit stressful, but overall worth it, since they were thrilled to be there.
Confidence Score: Excellent
There is nothing like the pressure of an impending march to make you smarter. I brushed up on the issue pre-march, and threw myself even further down the rabbit hole post-march. While my heart stayed the same size, I think my brain managed to grow three sizes that day. It’s one thing to read about these things, and it’s quite another to actually be involved in current events. It shapes my life experience, changes my world view, and expands my capacity to learn. All of this totally outweighs the achy feet, cramped Metro, and bathroom anxiety that comes with standing outside all day.
‘All the Feels’ Score: Excellent
On a grand scale, this protest was a tear-jerker. I felt like I was part of a revolution that will finally change the way we talk about gun control in this country. On a personal level, I’ve never felt more proud or empowered. My mom has been a public school teacher for over 30 years, and, as you can imagine, she is very passionate about this issue. As a hippie baby boomer, she knows her way around a protest, but this was a particularly important one – her first in Washington, D.C. We connected with so many strangers that we otherwise would not have because of this march. But, one cherished moment was just between us. My mom looked at me and said, “I always wanted to be here in the 60s, and now I’m in my 60s and here!” Mission accomplished, Mom.
A Sign of Change
Over the shouts and signs, a few powerful moments emerged. One, the call to action that came from the Parkland High teens. That we, as voters, need to step up and vote out anybody who takes money from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and any other organizations that turn a profit from lax gun laws. Two, that military-style weapons have no civilian role in this country. An all-out ban is appropriate and just. Third, the speakers; no adults or politicians spoke (they were not permitted to). It was all about the kids. Emma Gonzalez is practically a household name for her 6 minute and 20 second moment of silence—the exact amount of time she hid as the shooter went on a killing spree in her school. The 9-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. spoke with equal amounts of power, poise, and grace. And then there were the signs.
The crowd seemed particularly impacted by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Sarah Chadwick, who simply held up a sign with a $1.05 price tag. The significance is this: There are 3,140 students enrolled in Florida high schools. Marco Rubio has received $3,303,355 from the NRA. That comes out to $1.05 per student. What a statement.
What will you be IF you grow up
This one was pretty powerful, and left me with a lump in my throat.
The latest back to school fashions (bullet proof vests)
Love the cheekiness. Hate that it has to be said.
21st Century Weapons, 18th century laws
Protests are the antidote to complacency. They will stay with you, and shape your life forever. After all, this is what life is all about—the things that move you to be a better person, and inspire you to make this a better place. In particular, a place that is safe for kids to go to school to learn. Amazingly, adults could learn a lot on this topic from their children, if they only listen.